Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding (Harmonia Mundi)

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Mahler Symphony No. 5
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902366 
73:23 mins

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Not everyone will take to Daniel Harding’s mostly leisurely, studied approach to Mahler’s Fifth – I don’t, entirely – but what spectacular playing throughout! Who knew the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, of which he is principal conductor, could be quite as electrifying as this? Horns and trumpets are paramount, as they have to be in this symphony, and though the funeral march proper of the first movement doesn’t flow naturally as it should, the welters in between are stunning, the ultimate climax overwhelming, a demonstration-quality moment like the one at the culmination of the last fugal meltdown in the finale.

The strings are world-class, too, nuanced and capable of powerful accents; the Adagietto starts with little fuss compared to Harding’s gambits elsewhere, though the return to base slows down substantially. It’s impossible, too, to hear the Scherzo as Mahler’s intended ‘world without gravity’ – the pull is distinctly earthward, though the slower waltz works well, with some nice, Viennese-y string portamentos and characterful pizzicato. The horn obbligato resonates across a chasm as the dance comes to a standstill, the twilight zones are beautifully etched and the final stampede thrilling.

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David Nice